Battle of the Books | US vs UK Covers

Hello, hello! Welcome back!

If you're anything like me, you sat on Book Depository searching for those stunning and unique international book covers any time you considered buying a new release. As someone involved in marketing, I find the differences in book covers, especially US and UK covers, incredibly intriguing. Thus, The battle of the books is born. As important as aesthetic and visual appeal is, I also think it is important that a cover accurately markets the content of the book. For this reason, I've only included books I have already read in this list, so that I could accurately judge them. For continuity's sake, US covers will be on the left while UK covers will be on the right.

All that said, let us begin...

#1 Station 11 by Emily St John Mendel

First of all, the thing that sets Emily St. John Mendel's work apart from others is the atmosphere her prose creates. You come to Station 11 for the premise and the story, but you stay for the weight of world you step into, and leave feeling the nuanced presence wrapped around you like a warm blanket. There's no way to simply read this book idly. You find yourself one with the characters' plights.

The UK cover here is very stark. It's very loud to me, with the bold orange font covering the majority of the space. Against the black and white, it markets the book more so as a thriller to me, which is quite incorrect. The deer in front of the skyline is rather small in comparison to the text, and really just adds to the overall business of this cover art. I can't glean what the image is trying to tell me as a reader.

Therefore, I find the US cover all around better represents Station 11. It's cozy yet mysterious. The colors are deep and feel almost absorbing. Yet, it raises questions. Who dwells in these tents? What's happening to them? Where is the rest of civilization?The cover is both stunning and intriguing.

Who Won? US Cover

#2 The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Okay, on surface level, this one is incredibly difficult. The UK edition is very bright and eye-catching, which I typically prefer. It also gets bonus points for being a quirky illustrated cover. I'm a sucker for those. This cover promises whimsy and a prominence of nature in the story. This is quite accurate to the story within.

However, though the US cover isn't so vivid and quirky, it still catches the eye from its rich and deep coloration. The dark hues are intriguing and whimsical in their own way. The cottage looks very warm and inviting to me. Though this cover is incredibly different, I love it almost equally.

That leaves the verdict up to each cover's ability to market the story. Again, this is still sort of difficult. Each cover represents a different part of the story. However, I feel most people associate The Bear and the Nightingale with the cold of winter, which the majority of the story takes place in. Katherine Arden's writing is exceptionally atmospheric, and really immerses the reader in the bitter cold setting quite successfully. While atmospheric, Arden's writing tends to be the drier, slow moving narration. In addition, it is important to note that this story is a Russian folklore retelling.

For these reasons, I think the US cover best suits this story. The framed title and font scream "Fairy tale" to me the best. I also appreciate how well the cover encapsulates the setting and overall tone of the prose. Though I really appreciate the artwork of the UK cover, I think it sets the reader up to expect warm light prose, and far more action and/or romance.

Who won? US cover

#3 The Martian by Andy Weir

Now that I'm looking at the US cover more carefully, it really looks like he's giving someone just out of our view an air hug. (The poor lonely guy...) Otherwise, this cover really encapsulates the plot of the story. The hazy colors drive home the setting, and the floating astronaut really does seem to be a lone figure in this abyss.

The UK cover perhaps captures the emotional pull this book has, but I think it takes it too far. The man of the cover seems proud and determined, and though that may describe the main character, it completely erases the humor and light-heartedness that overflows from the book's pages. Also... something about that cover just reminds me of a horse book or a cheesy country romance. Just me? Okay...

Who won? US Cover

#4 Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is such a beautifully atmospheric novel that offers the reader equal doses of mysteriousness and whimsy. The titular circus is this surreal menagerie, where each tent houses a wonder even more astounding than the last. The US cover does a fantastic job of capturing the mysterious nature of this circus, as the big top rests on a hand. Who's hand is it? An Omnipotent? Is that the power that fuels the plot?

That said, the UK cover suggests the plot line more clearly to the reader. The silvery figures are dressed to the nines, facing bodily away from each other, yet their heads are turned to glance at one another. These figures represent our main characters who are unwittingly pit against each other in a competition against one another. The competition has no rules, but that one of them will give up their life. However neither knows who their competitor is.

These two covers are extremely similar. I hate that the UK cover does not extend all the way to the right, but I do greatly appreciate the addition of the silhouettes. Even with the annoyingly short cover, I think this win has to go to the UK cover.

Who won? UK Cover

#5 The Fork, the Witch, the Worm by Christopher Paolini

Ah yes, here we have the short story collection everyone asked for, but no one wants to claim. Perhaps if the book was printed in the same size as the rest of the Inheritance Cycle, people would be more likely to display the book on their shelves with some pride. I'm just saying...

I do, however, quite enjoy that the US cover illustrates just how big a dragon from this world can become. The idea is explored in thought within the series, but this cover is the first time we actually see a full-grown dragon. I also enjoy the very dusty tones, which match the re-released box-set of the series.

The UK edition also sports the same color scheme. You no longer get a full body-shot of a dragon, instead the image is zoomed in, such as the style of the series' book covers. Though it's clearly the same dragon, I enjoy the detail work in the UK edition. I also like the inclusion of fire which we also didn't get to see on the other covers either. This cover feels more of a continuation of the original artwork.

I can't say for certain if the permanent sticker is on every UK edition, so I will just assume it is not for fairness' sake. With that assumption, I'd have to say the UK cover wins this one. I really love continuity in book covers, even if it is just a short story collection. The competition was very close here.

Who won? UK Cover

#6 Eleanor Oliphant is Completey Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was easily my favorite book of the year in 2020. I'm shocked that I'm only just now seeing the UK cover. It is NOT what I expected at all. It certainly pertains to the story, but in a slightly spoiler-y way. I don't necessarily hate this cover, but it just seems a little too upbeat and YA for the story in my opinion. There's a place for this cover design, I just don't think this is it. Eleanor is too into practicality and simplicity for that nonsense.

That makes the US cover the clear winner here. I'm a sucker for illustrated covers like this one. Though these colors aren't ones I'd typically enjoy together, the whole image just makes me warm and fuzzy. The yellow also reminds me of Magners, and your girl will never say no to some adult beverages. Sorry, UK cover, this was an unfair fight.

Who won? US Cover

#7 Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight is a book unlike any I've ever read. The characters have extremely defined personalities, and the sense of humor is charmingly dark and dry. Getting to spend some time in Mia's mind was a treat, as was exploring the world Kristoff created. The US edition gives us a definitive look at Mia's appearance, and helps accentuate how scary and mysterious she can be. It also serves the purpose of setting the book apart from other fantasies in a bookstore, as this one is incredibly morbid and graphic. I can appreciate a publisher attempting a cover design unlike whatever is popular in the moment. It is quite refreshing.

The UK cover definitely echoes that of fantasy trends over more recent years. I've been seeing a lot of the thick black sketches with a single vibrant pop of color. That said, the crow on this cover is incredibly unique, as it's feathers are speckled with symbolism from the story. This cover may not seem directly linked to the story at first glance, but you must admire the detail.

I am prepared to forgive the UK edition for it's lack of aesthetic originality, simply because of the rigorous planning and attention to detail that went into it. I love this cover, and I love the continuity across the trilogy. As much as I appreciate the US cover's attempts to stand out, I do find it sort of ugly... sorry.

Who won? UK Cover

#8 Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The US cover embodies one scene from the entire book. Though that scene is a pivotal reveal, it does not define the story, setting, or characters for a prospective reader accurately enough to be the front cover. I know this cover is generally disliked by the YA reading population, and I can absolutely respect that notion.

On the flip side, the UK cover depicts the story with use of a lot of symbolism. However, this too falls short, as the resulting cover art screams "thriller novel" to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with this cover at face value, but it just doesn't do justice for a tragic paranormal story such as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It certainly doesn't set us up for the pain and depths of emotions the sequels bring to the table.

These covers couldn't be any more different. The thing is, I think they are both equally misleading. It's a wonder this series did nearly as well as it did based on the marketing. I'm not crazy about either of these covers, but if I had to pick one, I think I'd choose the US cover. There's something charming about the vibrant mask, and it really speaks to the overall plot line that gets picked up in later books. Though not perfect, I think the cover does a better job of selling the correct genre and story.

Who won? US Cover

#9 Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I loved this book, and now I desperately need to reread it. I've only ever seen the US edition until now. I love the US edition because it encapsulates the main character's dark and brooding nature so damn well. A lone black-swathed man standing over a city just screams "Villain origin story" to me. This cover, in essence, is the story.

But then again, the UK cover made me think a little harder about what Vicious is. It's not just the story of a villain against a superhero (or EO, if you've read the book). It's also the story of how a strong friendship can lead to toxicity and dangerous actions. It follows our main character and his college roommate as they experiment on each other to the brink of demise. I think the UK cover handles that part of the book very well, and does an equally great job at marketing the novel.

In the end, the decision is simply too hard to make. I think I need to give a point to each of these covers. I couldn't bear a world where either of these covers ceased to exist, so I think these need to tie?

Who won? It's a Tie!

#10 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman covers make my heart happy. The US edition here is very simple, and it's a faint echo of the covers to the chapter books from my childhood. I love the deep blue and the inclusion of Bod's silhouette against the gravestone. You don't really know the story you are entering from this cover, but I think it suits the book well in this instance.

Oh, the UK cover is practically cheating with the sketched cover art. It really is my weakness. The lighter blues aren't as appealing to me, but perhaps it does a better job of selling this as a friendly children's book. The quirky drawing almost has Tim Burton's claymation charm, and I really like that it links this book to Coraline in my mind. Both of these covers are amazing, but I think the UK cover just barely sneaks by and takes the win.

Who won? UK Cover

Final Scores

US Covers: 6

UK Covers: 5

This post was a lot of fun to make! Please tell me below if you feel differently about any of these covers, I'd love to hear some hearty debate.

Also, to make up for my extremely unpopular Daughter of Smoke and Bone opinions, please enjoy these new US covers which are absolutely gods-awful. There, now we agree on something.